Independence Day: Bascombe Trilogy | Chapter 13 of 22 - Part: 1 of 12

Author: Richard Ford | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 14947 Views | Add a Review

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7

Eight a.m. Things speed up.

On my way out of the Sea Breeze I remember to hike across, scale the green side of Mr. Tanks’s Peterbilt and squeeze a business card under his king-size windshield wiper, with a personal note on the back saying: “Mr. T. Good meeting you. Call up any time. FB.” I include my home phone. (The art of the sale first demands imagining the sale.) Strangely enough, when I take a quick curious peek inside the driver’s capsule, on the passenger’s seat I see a clutter of Reader’s Digest condenseds and on top of it an enormous yellow cat wearing a gold collar and staring up at me as if I were an illusion. (Pets are not welcome in the Sea Breeze, and Mr. Tanks is no doubt a consummate player-by-the-rules.) I notice also, as I climb down the cab’s outer shell, and just in front of the door, a name, painted in ornate red script and set in quotes: “Cyril.“ Mr. Tanks is a man deserving of study.

Back in the lot to leave my key (forgoing my deposit), I see that the Suburban with its Boston Whaler rig is gone now, and yellow “crime scene” tape is stretched across the closed door to #15. And I realize then that I’ve dreamed about it all: of a sealed room, of a car being towed off in the dark by small, muscular, sweaty white men in sleeveless shirts, shouting, “Come on back, come on back,” followed by the sound of scary chains and winches and big motors revving, then someone shouting, “Okay, okay, okay.”

At 8:45 I stop bleary-eyed for coffee at the Friendly’s in Hawleyville. After consulting my atlas, I decide on the Yankee Expressway to Waterbury and over to Meriden, a jog across and down to Middletown—where adjunct Charley “teaches” Wesleyan coeds to distinguish which column is Ionic and which Doric—then CT 9 straight into Deep River; this instead of drag-assing all the way down to Norwalk and 95 as I meant to do last night, driving east along the Sound with, I’m certain, four trillion other Americans craving a safe and sane holiday, yet doing everything they can to prevent me from having one.

In Friendly’s I browse through the Norwalk Hour for any mention of last night’s tragedy, although I’m sure it happened too late. I learn here, however, that Axis Sally has died in Ohio, aged eighty-seven and an honors graduate of Ohio Wesleyan; Martina has out-dueled Chris in three sets; hydrologists in Illinois have decided to draw down Lake Michigan to channel water into the more important and drought-starved Mississippi; and Vice President Bush has declared prosperity to be at “a record high” (though as if to call him a liar there are sidebar reports of declines in prices, mutual funds and CDs, declines in factory orders and aircraft demands—all “pocketbook” issues Dullard Dukakis needs to shanghai or lose his ass in a bucket).

After paying, I make my strategic calls squeezed between the double doors of Friendly’s “lobby”: one to my answering machine, disclosing nothing—a relief; another to Sally, intending to offer a private charter to anyplace I can meet her—no answer, not even a recording, causing my gut to wrench like someone had tightened a rope around it and jerked downward.

Apprehensively then I call Karl Bemish, first at the root beer palace, where there’s no reason for him to be yet, then at his bachelor digs in Lambertville, where he answers on the second ring.

“Everything’s jake here, Frank,” he shouts, to my inquiry about the felonious Mexicans. “Aw yeah, I should’ve called you back last night. I called the sheriff instead. I expected some action, really. But. False alarm. They never showed up again, the little fucks.”

“I don’t want you being in danger down there, Karl.” Customers stream in and out beside me, opening the door, jostling me, letting in hot air.

“I’ve got my alley sweeper, you know,” Karl says.

“You’ve got your what? What’s that?”

“A sawed-off twelve-gauge pump,” Karl says supremely, and grunts an evil laugh. “A serious piece of machinery.”

This is the first I’ve heard of an alley sweeper, and I don’t like it. In fact, it scares me silly. “I don’t think it’s a good idea to have an alley sweeper at the root beer stand, Karl.” Karl doesn’t like me to call it root beer, or a “stand,” but that’s how I think of it. What else is it? An office?

“Well, it beats lying facedown behind the birch beer cooler drinking your brains out of your paper hat. Or maybe I’m wrong about that,” Karl says coolly.

“Jesus Christ, Karl.”

“Just don’t worry. I don’t even bring it out till after ten.”

“Do the police know about it?”

“Hell, they told me where to buy it. Up in Scotch Plains.” Karl shouts this too. “I shouldn’t have blabbed it to you. You’re such a goddamn nervous nelly.”

“It makes me goddamn nervous,” I say, and it does. “I can’t use you dead. I’d have to serve the root beer myself, plus our insurance won’t pay off if you’re killed with an unlicensed gun in there. I’d probably get sued.”

“You just go on and have a holiday with your kid. I’ll hold down Fort Apache. I’ve got some other things to do this morning. I’m not alone here.”

There’s no more getting through to Karl now. My window’s just been shut. “Leave me a message if anything’s strange, would you do that?” I say this in an unlikely-to-be-acknowledged voice.

“I plan to be out of touch all morning,” Karl says, and makes a dumb hardee-har-har laugh, then hangs up.

I immediately dial Sally again, in case she’s been out picking up croissants and the Daily Argonaut. But nothing.

My last call is to Ted Houlihan—for an update, but also to grill him on the status of our office “exclusive.” Making client calls is actually one of the most satisfying parts of my work. Roily Mounger was right on the money when he said real estate has almost nothing to do with the state of one’s soul; consequently a necessary business call is tantamount to an enjoyable game of Ping-Pong. “It’s Frank Bascombe, Ted. How’s everything going down there?”

“Everything’s just fine, Frank.” Ted sounds frailer than yesterday, but as happy as he claims. A slow gas leak may create an unbeatable euphoria.

“Just wanted to tell you my clients are taking a day to think about it, Ted. They were impressed with the house. But they’ve looked at a lot of houses, and they need to push themselves beyond a threshold now. I do think the last house I showed them, though, is the one they ought to buy, and that was yours.”

“Super,” Ted says. “Just super.”

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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